The Grolier Club Presents “American Little Magazines of the 1890s”

American Little Magazines of the 1890s: A Revolution in Print

At the Grolier Club

February 20-April 27, 2013


The long smouldering passion of revolt at conservatism in English art and literature...resulted in a bilious explosion, the Yellow Book. ...The seed fell, as British seed usually does, on America; it grew, and began to flourish. ...Strangely fashioned periodicals, preaching fantastic doctrines, uttering weird thoughts, began to appear like mushrooms after a shower.
          — Percival Pollard, “In Eighteen Ninety-five,” The Echo, 15 August 1895, 8.


The 1890s witnessed the birth of the little magazine, a form associated with emerging modern art movements and alternative social and cultural trends. While the movement originated in Europe with magazines such as the Yellow Book, Le Chat Noir, and Jugend, it flourished particularly, as Pollard notes, in America. Here, in just a few short years, hundreds of “freak magazines,” “dinkeys,” “ephemerals,” or “fadazines,” as they were variously called, emerged all over the country. Though they have tended to be overshadowed by their European counterparts and by their Modernist successors, these magazines were a prolific and culturally important print phenomenon - a fad that exerted its influence on old and young, in town and country, and on professional and amateur writers, artists, and pundits across the nation. 

The exhibition American Little Magazines of the 1890s: A Revolution in Print, on view at the Grolier Club from February 20 to April 27, 2013, is the first to focus on these publications, which were central to the development of radical, progressive, avant-garde, and even popular and populist literary, artistic, social and cultural movements of the early twentieth century. Featuring more than 160 items, including magazines, books, posters, manuscript material and decorative objects, the exhibition places these magazines in their context. It demonstrates their links to the Arts and Crafts movement, Decadence, Symbolism, and Art Nouveau; developments in book design and the graphic arts; the international poster revolution; and Progressive-era cultural movements such as the rise of Utopian communities, Free Thought, Tolstoyan Socialism and Anarchism. These publications served as a vehicle of protest for the expression of alternative and radical social and political ideals.


Curator Dr. Kirsten MacLeod (Lecturer in English Literature, Victorian to Modern, School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, Newcastle University, Newcastle, England) has selected material from the libraries at Columbia University, Princeton University, the University of Delaware, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Delaware Art Museum, and the Grolier Club, and from various private collections.


The items on view represent the crème-de-la-crème of little magazines - aesthetically beautiful and culturally important productions such as Bradley His Book, the Lark, the Chap-Book, the Bibelot, M’lle New York, the Philistine and the Echo, magazines whose aesthetic appearance would influence developments in graphic arts and magazine and book design in the twentieth century. Other features include work by artists such as Aubrey Beardsley, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, John Sloan, and Will Bradley; masterpieces of aesthetic book production that influenced little magazine design including those of the Kelmscott Press, the Mosher Press, and the Roycrofters; and sections on notable figures who contributed to these magazines such as authors Stephen Crane, Kate Chopin, and Booth Tarkington, graphic designers Bruce Rogers and W. A. Dwiggins, and famed civil libertarian Clarence Darrow, among others. The exhibition is noteworthy not only for its visual appeal, but also for the story it tells about American literary, artistic, and social life in the decade before and after the turn of the 20th century.


LOCATION AND TIME:  American Little Magazines of the 1890s: A Revolution in Print will be on view at the Grolier Club, 47 East 60th Street, New York, from February 20-April 27, 2013. The exhibit will be open to the public free of charge, Monday - Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Additional information and directions are available at www.grolierclub.org.  


CATALOGUE: A catalogue in conjunction with the exhibition American Little Magazines of the 1890s: A Revolution in Print will be available at the Grolier Club.


EXHIBITION-RELATED EVENTS:


On March 13, 6 - 7:30 pm, Philip R. Bishop, bookseller, rare books specialist, author, and expert on the Mosher Press, will talk about Thomas Mosher’s importance in the little magazine movement. This will be followed by a Collectors’ Forum featuring Philip R. Bishop, Mark Samuels Lasner, David W. Lowden, and Jean-François Vilain, lenders to the exhibition, who will discuss their collections and the place of little magazines of the 1890s within them.


On March 28, 5 - 7 pm, there will be a symposium on American Little Magazines of the 1890s featuring talks by Johanna Drucker (UCLA), Brad Evans (Rutgers University), David Weir (Cooper Union), and exhibition curator Kirsten MacLeod (Newcastle University).  


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Visit the grolier club website: www.grolierclub.org


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